What Price Chinuch?

This is not about the tuition crisis. There are prices we are asked to pay other than money.

Consider this, from an interview with a major religious authority:

People thinking about our engagement with the culture and especially with entertainment need to keep a couple of issues very much in mind, and one of these is the pattern or the trajectory of media influence.

This has do with the fact that even as entertainment has to be entertaining in order to be successful, once a movie or any other cultural product achieves that genuine moment of entertainment, it then has the opportunity for a far deeper influence.

Hollywood is “ground zero” for much of the change fueling the moral revolution in society.

Because once entertainment reaches the mind, it also reaches our hearts.

An accurate synopsis, we would think, of the reason so many of us simply do not have television sets.

But the subject of the interview was not a notable right-of-center rabbinic figure, but Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was reacting to the stunning news that a new Disney film for children includes a gay scene.

In our community, we would be puzzled about why it took a particular innovation in the increasing rejection of and contempt for Biblical teaching to arrive at this eureka moment. Is it only the normalizing of same-sex romance that reaches the minds and the hearts of the impressionable?

When television first became popular, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l weighed in on the entire medium. He said nothing about lax morality. Perhaps, in those earlier years, those leanings had not yet been picked up on people’s radar. Rav Moshe wrote instead about violence. How can watching people murder others become a source of entertainment, he wondered?

To many of us, the problem of television is that it is the polar opposite of what chinuch should be about: creating an atmosphere in which a child can thrive, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. We fully recognize that there is worthwhile programming to be found, but we deem it not worth the price. That price is having children (and adults!) sit in front of a device that reaches the mind and heart, but does not tell us in advance what its next subliminal message will be. We found many more objectionable themes, including bad character (anger; vindictiveness – even in cartoons!; self-centeredness), rejection of authority, and materialism. Chinuch is about carefully making choices about what we are going to be exposed to; television means ceding that responsibility to others.

The price that many of us, in turn, pay to protect our chinuch is to ban the offending medium altogether. That price is too steep for some to pay, which might be why Dr. Mohler speaks out only about a single gay scene. Should he suggest that all of popular culture be eschewed, he will not have many takers. (In all fairness, he will have some. I myself have met serious Christians who have banned television and pop culture from their homes.)

There is serious talk about boycotting the movie. It comes from Christian circles, and a Russian lawmaker. A better response might be a serious consideration of what responsibility every parent has for nurturing the spiritual environment of his or her children. And then let the chips fall where they may.

You may also like...

13 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Many years ago a prominent Rebbitzen told me that she did not have a television in her house. I thought that she lived on another planet but years later even though I have a television which is reserved only for the news and an occasional sporting event I think that she was absolutely right in not allowing the idiot box to determine the values in her house.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    As the song went, decades ago, “…what’s the matter with kids today?”

    Parents need somehow to isolate their kids from immoral distractions and immoral peer pressure.  We’ve heard a lot about synthesizing a Modern (or Centrist, or who knows what) Orthodoxy that is open to the best in the secular world.   However, that world is falling off a moral cliff and the good tidbits are harder and harder to pick out.   All the while, that world’s electronic devices for propagating its sick attitudes become ever more alluring and pervasive.  This can cause a lot of anguish for a right-minded parent.  Despite all the philosophical razzle-dazzle about openness, we’d better find an effective, organized way as a group to become more isolated  culturally.   Don’t leave it to beleaguered parents to fight off the zeitgeist on their own.


    • We have made great strides in that direction – better than any minority group I know of. We have today what no one dreamed of a few decades ago. We have our own press, our own weekly glossies, our own novels, music, drama, websites. They are not perfect, but they can and do substitute for what sociologists call “low culture,” that if not found within our community will certainly be pursued outside of it

      • Bob Miller says:

        And, despite it all, our problem in this area still grows.   What we have done may not be all that’s needed.

      • DF says:

        You’re right that we have developed our own form of “low culture.” Where we have failed is in confusing that low culture with our own high culture, i.e., Torah. Thus, for example, when our music is indistinguishable from rock songs except that is uses Pesukim from Tanach, it doesn’t serve to elevate the low – it only lowers the high. The same with novels. (Actually, kosher-style books are so preachy and moralizing that I really don’t know if anyone actually reads them.)

        The fundamental problem we have to come to terms with is that there is no concept of “entertainment” in the Torah. It just doesn’t exist. Yet most of us recognize that, unless we want Torah to be reserved only for a few cloistered scholars, then entertainment is necessary. So our initial forays have been in attempting to artificially create a new animal, called (for lack of better word) “Torah-based entertainment.” But as I just said, and space constraints preclude more in a comment, it doesn’t work. The community needs to mature and realize that entertainment is allowed to be just entertainment. Not everything can – or should – have a sermon attached to it. ואכמ”ל

      • Aaron says:

        Our own press is often equally guilty of some of the moral laxities mentioned in the article above. A simple perusal through the pages of our newspapers and glosises will find them replete with subliminal and not so subliminal messages of materialism. Mega resorts for Pesach, best steak for a BBQ and chanifah of the rich and powerful are standard fare. Bad character traits and actions are often minimized and ignored if the subject is perceived to be on the receiving end of “anti-semitic” bias. The worldview presented by the frum media is often lopsided, one sided and excessively shallow. As a society are we really better off with our frum media or would we better off reading the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Economist, and Atlantic Monthly?

      • YbhM says:

        More and higher-quality novels for preteens and teens are needed.

  3. Raymond says:

    I have not owned a television for several decades now, and no, it is not because I want to keep its bad influence from my children, since I have no children.  Rather, I want to keep its negative influence from myself.  Yes, I do think that it is a essentially a propaganda machine for the Political Left, but perhaps even moreso, it teaches people to be shallow and really mindless.  I see very little difference between watching excessive television and drinking excessive alcohol.  While I theoretically do not think it is a disaster to watch, say, one hour of television after a hard day at work, I have yet to meet a person who has such self-control that they can limit their television watching to that extent.  There are some television shows that may be worth watching, such as the History Channel, but the negatives of watching television so overwhelmingly outweigh any of its marginal positive effects, that unless one is completely disabled such that they cannot do anything else in their lives, that I would advise almost all people to permanently get rid of their television sets.

    I did hear about that gay scene in that recent Disney cartoon.  Given my not exactly flattering views of Hollywood, I suppose I should not have been shocked, and yet I was.  Apparently, there is no limit to the Left’s war against Torah morality.  They will not stop until Torah values are completely obliterated from the face of the Earth, even if that involves brainwashing impressionable children to lead morally deviant lives.  What is perhaps even more horrifying, is that I have encountered very little resistance to what Disney did.  But again, given how the Political Left has so effectively turned morality upside down, until the point when now, for example, it is considered enlightened to support gay marriage and considered homophobic to maintain the Torah view on that alternative lifestyle, I suppose that I should not be surprised.

    Since I do not have the power to really do anything about this, my overwhelming reaction to all this is to withdraw more and more into my own world.  I do not quite fit in with the Orthodox Jewish world, and yet at least for me, it seems more and more to be the only sane society left on our planet.  And so while I tend to keep them at arm’s length, I continue to hope that they will never disappear, and will maintain loyalty to G-d’s teachings as revealed in our Torah.

  4. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    How is it that Orthodox Jews can, to a great extent, shut off media and the believing Christians can’t? I suppose we are better trained more hours a day for will-power, with daily davening, learning and attention to what is kosher and what isn’t. For the Christian it is only an occasional light that flashes to catch their attention. They are certainly well-intentioned, idealistic and among the best the non-Jewish world has to offer in the realm of values, but we see the gap there. I certainly wish them well. But if that is all there is in the general world to resist the flood of post-modernism, I guess we are just Noah’s ark.

  5. DF says:

    Talk of televisions and banning televisions is an anachronism. What all of parents of school age children today struggle with is the internet, and more precisely, smart phones and personal devices. Most of agree that we would almost *like* to see our children sitting around the television in the family room, where its public, everyone’s together, and the subject matter far less worse than what the internet offers.

    A boycott of the movie is a very good idea. And it doesn’t even need to be formal; simply not going will send the message across. One guesses this movie was developed before the presidential election, when it was still somehow just assumed by the left that everyone shared the same  ethos as them, and republicans/conservatives were on the downswing.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Technology right now is the media challenge of this generation. Either one masters one’s use of smart phones, social media , etc or you become a slave to it. It is that simple.

    • Aaron says:

      I agree with the first part of what DF wrote above. Almost everyone in the frum world, including the American Chareidi world has internet access.  TV is hardly the issue anymore. Every TV show can be streamed and one can watch cable on any internet enabled device. Not having a TV is a mirage that masks the greater issue of exposure to secular culture and values.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Technology is the challenger to everyone who has a snartphone. You either conquer technology or technology conquers you. There is no other way around the challenge.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This